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Life Changing

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In May, a joint team of engineering and nursing students, along with faculty from ONU, traveled to the Dominican Republic to administer health care to local communities and STEM education workshops for teachers. The following is one student's thoughts on the unforgettable experience.

by Morgan Sperry
Junior mechanical engineering major from Batavia, Ohio

I know that many people say that things are life-changing, but I truly believe that my trip to the Dominican Republic was a life-changing event. It opened my eyes to a new and different culture. I had never seen “poor” until I was down there. I don’t mean that in a bad way, but the poor of America seem much better off than the poor of the Dominican.

"I went the Dominican to do what
I could to help the people there.
Instead, I was touched in so many
ways by them."

One of the biggest things I learned from my trip was how thankful the Dominicans were for what little they had. One of my jobs at our clinics was to hang out and play with the children while their parents had their checkup. I would give a child some stickers and you would have thought that I gave them a million dollars. They were so appreciative for anything they received. It amazed me to see so many people happy in their community and so helpful to their neighbors. A distinct memory I had was at the first clinic when a woman offered us the use of her yard so that we could play with the kids. She offered chairs and cleaned her yard so it was spotless. Cleaning her yard meant that she swept the dirt and made sure everything was in its place. Everyone pitched in, and it looked wonderful.

Another memory that will stick with me forever is the first teacher workshop. There were about 80 teachers that came on their day-off to learn from us. At first, the teachers seemed hesitant and not too excited, but, once we started the activities, each and every one of them became an active participant. The first lesson plan that we taught them involved building bricks out of paper bags, rulers and colored pencils. The bricks were designed to help show them that the use of an assembly line was more effective than building the bricks individually.

The second lesson involved building a robotic arm that could pick up a water bottle and move it. This plan was intended to see how creative they could be. The teachers were divided into groups for each of the lesson plans, and they worked hard on both. The teachers were really focused, creative and fun-loving. The way they got excited about a robotic arm made of cardboard and other little materials showed me that there is more to a happy life than material things and money. Seeing the teachers so actively involved and absorbing what we were showing them was very gratifying and rewarding. I had to take a step back a few times and just embrace all the love that I saw that day.

I have never seen such beautiful scenery until I traveled to the Dominican Republic, specifically from Santo Domingo to San Juan. The trees, crops and mountains are so beautiful. Pictures do not do them justice. Describing the beauty is difficult because I have never seen anything in the USA that compares. I have seen similar beauty, but not like that of the Dominican.

There isn’t one memory, one person or one food that made my trip. Everyone I came into contact with has affected me and will always be in my heart. I went the Dominican to do what I could to help the people there. Instead, I was touched in so many ways by them. My thoughts about the trip make me feel so blessed for the opportunity I was given. Hopefully, I will get to go back again. Last, but not least, the people of Ohio Northern that went on the trip with me made it so memorable. The friendships I developed and memories I made were well worth the effort.